Makkah & the Family of the Prophet Ibrahīm Part 1 – Shaykh Riyadh ul Haq
From Superstitions into Light
Rabi’ul-Awwal is the most significant month in the Islamic history, because humanity has been blessed in this month by the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Before the birth of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, not only the Arabian peninsula, but also the so-called civilized nations of Rome and Persia were drowned in the darkness of ignorance, superstitions, oppression and unrest. The Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, came with the eternal truth of Tawhid (Oneness of Allah), the only faith which provides a firm basis for the real concepts of knowledge, equity and peace. It was this faith which delivered humanity from ignorance and superstitions and spread the light of true knowledge all over the world.
Thus the birth of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was the most significant and the most remarkable event in human history. Had there been room in Islamic teachings for the celebration of birthdays or anniversaries, the birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, would have undoubtedly deserved it more than the birthday of any other person. But that is against the nature of Islamic teachings. That is why, unlike Judaism, Christianity, and Hinduism, there are very few festivals in Islam, which provides for only two Eids (Eidul-fitr and Eidul-Adha) during the whole year. The dates of these two Eids do not correspond to the birthday of any of the outstanding persons of Islamic history, nor can their origin be attributed to any particular event of history that had happened in these dates.
Both of these two Eids have been prescribed for paying gratitude to Allah on some happy events that take place every year. The first event is the completion of the fasts of Ramadan and the second event is the completion of Hajj, another form of worship regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam.
The manner prescribed for the celebration of these two Eids (festivals) is also different from non-Islamic festivals. There are no formal processions, illumination or other activities showing formal happiness. On the contrary, there are congregational prayers and informal mutual visits to each other, which can give real happiness instead of its symbols only.
On the other hand, Islam has not prescribed any festival for the birthday of any person, however great or significant he may be. The prophets of Allah are the persons of the highest status amongst all human beings. But the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, or his noble companions never observed the birthday or anniversary of any of them. Even the birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, which was the most happy day for the whole mankind was never celebrated by the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, himself, nor by his blessed Companions.
The Companions of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, remained alive after him for about a century, but despite their unparalleled and profound love towards the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, they never celebrated the birthday or the death anniversary of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Instead, they devoted their lives for promoting the cause of Islam, for bringing his teachings into practice, for conveying his message to the four corners of the world and for establishing the Islamic order in every walk of life.
The Origins of Christmas
In fact, commemorating the birth of a distinguished person has never been prescribed by any religion attributing itself to divine revelation. It was originally a custom prevalent in pagan communities only. Even Christmas, the famous Christian feast commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ finds no mention in the Bible or in the early Christian writings. It was only in the 4th century after the ascension of Jesus Christ that Christmas was recognized as a regular Christian feast. To quote the Collier’s Encyclopedia:
“It is impossible to determine the exact date of the birth of Christ, either from the evidence of the gospels, or from any sound tradition. During the first three centuries of the Christian era there was considerable opposition in the Church to the pagan custom of celebrating birthdays, although there is some indication that a purely religious commemoration of the birth of Christ was included in the feast of Epiphany. Clement of Alexandria mentions the existence of the feast in Egypt about the year A.D. 200 and we have some evidence that it was observed on various dates in scattered areas. After the triumph of Constantine, the Church at Rome assigned December 25 as the date for the celebration of the feast, possibly about A.D. 320 or 353. By the end of the fourth century the whole Christian world was celebrating Christmas on that day, with the exception of the Eastern Churches, where it was celebrated on January 6. The choice of December 25 was probably influenced by the fact that on this day the Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the Sun-god, and that the Saturnalia also came at this time.” (Collier’s Encyclopedia 1984 ed, v. 6, p. 403).
A similar description of the origin of Christmas is found in-the Encyclopedia Britannica with some more details. Its following passage will throw more light on the point:
“Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church, and before the 5th century there was no general consensus of opinion as to when it should come in the calendar, whether on Jan. 6, March 25 or Dec. 25. The earliest identification of Dec. 25 with the birthday of Christ is in a passage, otherwise unknown and probably spurious, of the philos of Antioch (c.180), preserved in Latin by the Magdeburyg centuriators (i, 3, 118), to the effect that the Gauls contended that since they celebrated the birth of Lord on Dec. 25, so they ought to celebrate the resurrection on March 25. A passage, almost certainly interpolated, in ‘Hippelates’ (c. 202) commentary on Daniel iv, 23, says that Jesus was born at Bethlehem on Wednesday, Dec. 25, in the 42nd year of Augustus, but he mentions no feast, and such a feast, indeed, would conflict with the then orthodox ideas. As late as 245, Origin (hem. viii on Leviticus) repudiated the idea of keeping the birthday of Christ “as if he were a king Pharaoh”. (Britannica, 1953 ed. v. 5, p.642)
These two quotes are more than sufficient to prove the following points:
1. The commemoration of birthdays was originally a pagan custom, never recognized by a divine scripture or prophetic teaching.
2. The exact date of the Birth of Sayyidna ‘Isa is unknown and impossible to be ascertained.
3. The commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ was not a recognized practice in the early centuries of the Christian history.
4. It was in the 4th or 5th century that it was recognized as a religious feast, and that, too, under the influence of the pagans who worshipped Sun-god.
5. There was a strong opposition against the commemorating of the birthday by the early Christian scholars like Origin, on the ground that it is originally a custom of pagans and idolaters.
Original Islamic Resources
In original Islamic resources, also we cannot find any instruction about the celebration of birthdays or death anniversaries. Many Companions of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, passed away during his life-time. His beloved wife Sayyidah Khadijah, Radi-Allahu anha, passed away in Makkah. His beloved uncle Sayyidna Hamzah, Radi-Allahu anhu was brutally slaughtered during the battle of Uhud. But the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, never observed their birthday or their death anniversaries, nor did he ever advise his followers to celebrate his own birthday in Rabi’ul-Awwal.
What is Wrong with These Celebrations
The reason for abstinence from such celebrations is that they divert the attention of people from the real teachings of Islam towards the observance of some formal activities only. Initially, these celebrations may begin with utmost piety and with a bona fide intention to pay homage to a pious person. Yet, the experience shows that the celebration is ultimately mixed up with an element of merrymaking and rejoicing and is generally confused with secular festivals and the secular, and often sinful, activities creep into it gradually.
The Transformation of Christmas
The example of Christmas will again be relevant. This Christian feast was originally innovated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ and, of course, to remember his teachings. But once the occasion had been recognized as a feast, all the secular elements of public festivals crept in. The following quotation from the Encyclopedia Britannia is worth attention:
“For several centuries Christmas was solely a church anniversary observed by religious services. But as Christianity spread among the people of pagan lands, many of the practices of the winter solstice were blended with those of Christianity because of the liberal ruling of Gregory I, the great, and the cooperation of the missionaries. Thus, Christmas became both religious and secular in its celebration, at times reverent, at others gay.”
Then, what kind of activities have been adopted to celebrate Christmas is mentioned in the next paragraphs of which the following quote is more pertinent here:
“Merrymaking came to have a share in Christmas observance through popular enthusiasm even while emphasis was on the religious phase. … In the wholly decked great halls of the feudal lords, whose hospitality extended to all their friends, tenants and household, was sailing, feasting, singing and games, dancing, masquerading and mummers presenting pantomimes and masques were all part of the festivities.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1953 v. 5, p. 643)
This is enough to show as to how an apparently innocent feast of reverence was converted into a secular festival where the merrymaking and seeking enjoyment by whatever means took preference over all the religious and spiritual activities.
Being fully aware of this human psychology, Islam has never prescribed, nor encouraged the observance of birthdays and anniversaries, and when such celebrations are observed as a part of the religion, they are totally forbidden.
The Religion is Complete
The Holy Qur’an has clearly pronounced on the occasion of the last Hajj of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam: “Today, I have completed the teachings of your religion.” [Al-Maida 5:3]
It means that all the teachings of Islam were communicated to the Muslims through the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. No one is allowed after it to add any thing to them as a part of religion. What was not a part of religion during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, can never become part of it. Such additions are termed by the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, as Bid’ah or innovation.
Thus, the observance of the 12th of Rabi’ul-Awwal as a religious feast is not warranted by any verse of the Holy Qur’an or by any teaching of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Had it been a part of the religion it would have been clearly ordered or practiced by the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and his blessed companions or, at least, by their immediate pupils. But no example of the celebration of the occasion can be traced out in the early centuries of the Islamic history. It was after many centuries [Albalagh Note: According to Maulana Yusuf Ludhinavi it was in the year 604 A.H.] that some monarchs started observing the 12th of Rabi’ul-Awwal as the birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, without a sound religious basis, and the congregations in the name of Maulood or Milad were held where the history of the birth of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to be narrated.
Disagreement About the Date
The observance of the 12th of this month as the birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is not only an innovation having no basis in the Islamic teachings, but the accuracy of this date as the real birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is also very much doubted. There are different dates suggested in different traditions, and the majority of the authentic scholars is inclined to hold that the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was born on the 9th of Rabi’ul-Awwal. This difference of opinion is another evidence to prove that the observance of the birthday is not a part of the religion, otherwise its exact date would have been preserved with accuracy.
The life of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is, no doubt, the most important source of guidance for all the Muslims, and every Muslim is under an obligation to learn and study the events of his life, and to follow the practical example set by him in every sphere of life. The narration of his pious biography (the Seerah) in itself is a pious act, which invites the divine blessings, but the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah have not prescribed a particular time or method for it. This pious act should be performed in all the months and at all the times. The month of Rabi’ul-Awwal has not been designated by the Shariah as a special season for holding such congregations to commemorate the birth or life of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. It is thus an innovation (Bid’ah) to restrict the Seerah meetings to the month of Rabi’ul Awwal only, or to believe that the meetings held in this month are worthy of more reward than the meetings held on any other date during the year. In fact, the Companions of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to commemorate the life of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, throughout the year, not only by studying and conveying his message to others, but also by following his way of life and acting upon his teachings in each and every branch of their activities, and this is exactly what a Muslim is required and supposed to do.
By this we do not mean that the Seerah meetings should not be held in the month of Rabi’ul-Awwal. The point is only that they should not be restricted to it, nor should it be believed that the Shariah has laid any kind of emphasis on holding such meetings in this particular month.
Another point that should always be kept in mind while holding such meetings is that they must be in complete conformity with the rules of Shariah. A Muslim is supposed to abide by the rules of Shariah in all his activities. But at least the meetings held in the memory of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, should be free from all the acts forbidden by the Shariah.
Contemporary Seerah Meetings and Shariah
It is often observed, especially in the Western countries, that the people hold the Seerah meetings where men and women sit together without observing the rules of hijab prescribed by the Shariah. The teachings of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, are obviously against such mixed gatherings. How can a Seerah meeting bring fruits where such fundamental teachings of the Shariah are openly violated?
In some meetings the Na’ts (poems) in the memory of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, are recited by the women before the male audience, sometimes with music, which is totally against the instructions of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. It is clearly prohibited by the Shariah to hold such meetings or to participate in them, because it is not only a violation of the Shariah rules, but it is an affront to the sanctity of the Seerah of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.
All other activities, often practiced on the twelfth of Rabi’ul-Awwal, like holding processions, constructing the mock tombs of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and illumination of the buildings and the roads are not warranted by any rule of the Shariah. Rather they are based on conscious or unconscious imitation of certain other religions. No example of such activities can be traced out from the earlier Islamic history.
Real Message of Seerah
What is really important with regard to the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is, first, to follow his teachings, and second to make his pious Seerah available to every Muslim, to preserve it in the hearts of the Muslims from the very childhood, to educate the family members to run their lives according to it and to hold it as the most glorious example of the human conduct the universe has ever witnessed — and all this with utmost love and reverence, not manifested by some formal activities only, but also through actual behavior of following the Sunnah. This cannot be done by merely holding processions and illuminating the walls. This requires constant and consistent efforts and a meaningful program of education and training.
By Khalid Baig
On the twelfth of Rabi-ul-Awwal, Muslims all over the world hold special gatherings to commemorate and celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. The special programs attract huge numbers of Muslims. There can be no two opinions among the believers that remembering the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and learning about his life example are highly meritorious acts. The milad celebrations show the deep love and devotion that all the believers have for the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad ibn Abdullah, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. This love and devotion remains a distinct characteristic of Muslims throughout the centuries.
However, while the fact of this love has not changed, its nature has. It has taken different forms than what we find in the early generations. The Companions were the special people who came in direct contact with Allah’s Messenger, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, learned from him, joined his struggle, gave the most sacrifices for it, devoted their lives for his mission, and earned the credentials for being the model disciples, followers, and devotees.
Among them was Sayyidna Mus’ab ibn Umayr, Radi-Allahu anhu. As a young pagan in Makkah, he was the best dressed, the best cared for youth. Clad in the most expensive silk and wearing the best perfumes, he would leave a trail of fragrance wherever he passed by. Then something happened. He met the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and his message penetrated the depth of his heart. Life changed drastically. His pagan mother, who used to love him before, now despised him and began to punish him severely. His was a transformation from riches to rags. Once the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, saw him covering his body with a patched up old hide and showing the signs of rough life that he had embraced. He said, “I saw this young man some years ago in Makkah. There was none at that time who was more handsome, was living a more luxurious life, or was better dressed than him. But today he has sacrificed all the comforts of this life for the love of Allah and his Prophet.” He was the first teacher of the Ansar in Madinah and the standard bearer of the Muhajireen in Badr. When he was martyred in Uhud, there was not enough cloth to cover his body completely; grass was used to supplement the small burial cloth. According to some reports, the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, stood by his body and recited the verse: “From among the believers there are some men who fulfilled their pledge with Allah.”
Among them was Sayyidna Sa’d ibn Mu’az, Radi-Allahu anhu, the leader of the Ansar. The Ansar had provided hospitality and protection to the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam and the Makkan Muslims, but soon they faced a bigger challenge. Would they be ready to fight against the much larger and better equipped Makkan army? His powerful words in the meeting before Badr captured the spirit of their commitment. “O Rasulullah, we have believed in you, affirmed your Prophethood, and pledged obedience. By Allah, who has sent you as a Messenger, if you were to command us to jump into the ocean we will do that. Not one soul among us will remain behind. Insha-Allah you will find us steadfast in the battle.”
Among them was Sayyidna Jareer ibn Abdullah, Radi-Allahu anhu. Once he sent his servant for buying a horse. The servant made a deal for three hundred dirhams and brought the seller with him so he could be paid. Sayyidna Jareer ibn Abdullah, Radi-Allahu anhu, looked at the horse and realized that the seller had undervalued it. “Would you sell it for four hundred?” he asked. The seller agreed. “How about five hundred?” he continued his unusual “bargaining” and finally bought the horse for eight hundred dirhams. He was later asked why he did so. “The seller was not aware of the true value of this horse, ” he explained. “I have simply given him a fair price because I had promised to Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, to always be sincere and well-wisher for every Muslim.”
Among them was the unnamed person who was wearing a gold ring. It is prohibited for Muslim men to wear gold. The Prophet, Sall-Allahu Alayhi wa sallam, took his ring and threw it on the ground, saying it was like wearing burning charcoal from Hell. Later on people suggested to him to pickup the ring as it could be used for other legitimate purposes. But he refused saying: “No, by Allah, I will never take it, when it has been thrown away by the Messenger of Allah.”
These are just some random glimpses into the lives and minds of the great Companions. Their life accounts are full of such examples. They accepted his Prophethood from the bottom of their hearts, knowing fully what that means. From that point on, their lives revolved entirely around this belief. They loved the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam more than anybody else in the world. They intently observed his actions and listened to his words. They remembered him all the time. They obeyed each and every one of his commands. They never said, “This is only a Sunnah,” meaning it can be ignored. They never asked why a command was given. They never sought excuses. Within the home and outside it, in business or on the battlefield, in their private gatherings or in the courts of kings and emperors, everywhere they were the most obedient servants of Allah and the most obedient followers of the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.
None of them ever celebrated Prophet’s birthday. They did not need to have a day or a month devoted to the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, because they had devoted their entire lives to him.
Today our lives and our outlooks bear little resemblance to theirs. We praise but do not listen to him; we claim to love, but refuse to follow; we claim to believe but lead lives like those who don’t. We emphasize what the Companions ignored and ignore what they emphasized.
They loved the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and had their lives to show for it. And we? Can we honestly say that we love the Prophet as he should be loved?
Q.) What is the truth about Milad? On the 12th of Rabi-Awwal Milad-un-Nabi is celebrated with great fanfare and Milad meetings are arranged. What is the ruling of Shariah regarding that?
A.) The gatherings arranged to remember the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, the mercy to the mankind, are called Milad gatherings. Remembering the life of the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and teaching others about it, is an act of great blessing and virtue. However all good deeds have to be performed according to the rules and guidelines established by the Shariah. To exceed them is a grave sin. For example reciting the Qur’an is a great act of virtue, but it is prohibited to do so while one is in ruku or sujud in prayers. Likewise, Salat is one of the most important acts of worship. Yet, it is haram to perform it at sunrise or sunset.
Similarly, there are rules governing the blessed remembrance of the Sirah. For example, this remembrance must not be associated with a particular day or month; it should be considered equally virtuous during every month of the year, every week of the month, and every day of the week. Also it can take any permissible form. For example you can arrange a reading of an authentic book on Sirah or have a lecture delivered by a scholar. Doing that is not only permissible but it will bring great reward. But it is important to stay away from the evils found in the prevalent Milad gatherings. Here are some of those evils:
- A particular date (12 Rabi-Awwal) has been designated for this remembrance. There is no evidence supporting this designation during the time of Sahaba (Companions), the tabiyeen (the generation that followed the companions) or taba-tabiyeen (the next generation). This designation is bida’a (innovation).
- The element of showoff (riya) is commonly present in these gatherings.
- If someone does not attend these gatherings, he is looked down upon.
- Distribution of sweets is considered an indispensable part of the proceedings.
- To meet the expenses donations are collected from sometimes unwilling people who give money under social pressure. According to the hadith it is not permissible to take any Muslim’s money without his willingness.
- Intermixing of men and women commonly takes place in these gatherings. People stay late at night in these meetings thereby missing the next morning’s prayers.
- The focus of the talks delivered there is very limited. The Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, has given guidance for every aspect of our life. These cover acts of worship, dealing with other people, morals and manners, social relationships, business dealings, etc. However, it has been observed that the prevalent Milad talks concentrate mainly or solely on the account of the birth of the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and his miracles. They do not attempt to cover the vast teachings of the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. [Thus, not only the form of these meetings but also the message given by them is generally a distorted one. Translator.]
For these reasons one should refrain from the prevalent Milad gatherings. However if care is taken to avoid all of these evils and to follow the Shariah carefully, then a meeting organized to remember the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, with the sole purpose of seeking Allah’s pleasure, will Insha-Allah be a blessed event. And Allah knows best.
Written: Muhammad Abdul Muntaqim Sylheti (Darul-Ifta, Darul-uloom Karachi)
Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani
Mufti Muhammad Rafi Usmani
Mufti Abdul Rauf Sakharvi
And many others.
Translated from Urdu by Khalid Baig.